Unilever brand Axe partnered with the Netflix show “Sex Education” to initiate conversations around dating-related subjects that teen boys struggle with, the company revealed in a press release.
The campaign is driven by findings from a new Axe study, conducted by marketing research firm GfK, that found 47% of boys aged 14-24 in the U.S. have refrained from asking someone out due to a lack of confidence. Another 42% said they are more comfortable approaching potential dates on social media rather than in real life.
The brand is using Dr. Jean Milburn’s book, “Bringing Up Men,” as a source for content addressing how to overcoming dating issues. The company will run chapters from the book on Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and AXE.com, releasing new content throughout the year. Each release will include difficult dating stories from real teens and use humor to lighten the mood. One of the “Sex Education” characters will introduce each topic and will share advice on how to overcome dating challenges.
Axe’s “Sex Education” push shows how the brand’s messaging continues to evolve away from traditional tropes around what constitutes masculinity, in this case to make a connection with young men who lack confidence in dating by promoting positive sex education. Axe’s own research backs up the need for such an approach, and the brand joins a number of other consumer brands including Bonobos and Harry’s in targeting millennial and Gen Z male consumers with messaging that’s more relevant for cohorts with a reputation for embracing socially progressive attitudes toward gender stereotypes.
By reaching out to real life teens and surveying them on dating and sex, the company is making an effort to better understand the challenges its target demographic faces. In creating a more direct conversation around dating and sex, Axe has an opportunity to position itself as a valued resource for a delicate subject.
Season 2 of “Sex Education,” which tells the story of a socially awkward teen and his sex therapist mom, recently launched on Netflix. While the streaming platform is committed to not including ads in its programming, Axe is strategically riding the show’s popularity to start a discussion around its core themes. Netflix shows are popular among Gen Z, with 37% of teens’ daily online time spent on Netflix, per Piper Jaffray. The cross-channel approach of partnering with a Netflix show will help the brand expand its presence for its target audience, while releasing content throughout the year will support an ongoing conversation that could extend the campaign’s reach.
Instagram, Snapchat and Netflix are core sites that teens spend time with. Ninety percent of teens report using Instagram at least once a month, per Piper Jaffray, and 70% said they prefer brands to contact them about new products through the Facebook-owned platform. About half of teens prefer Snapchat as the channel to hear from brands.
The “Sex Education” effort follows Axe’s campaign last spring to promote wellness to men through the concept of “bathsculinity,” a noun defined by Axe as “qualities or attributes regarded as characteristic of young men who take pride in their appearance and feel confident in expressing their most attractive selves, inside and outside of the bathroom.”